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The Tennessee Arts Academy staff is composed of dedicated and highly skilled individuals who guide the Academy in the summer and throughout the year. During the actual Academy week, the staff grows larger in order to accommodate the needs of the more than 400 participants and faculty who gather on the Belmont campus to attend the event.
TAA Administrative Council
Executive Director/Theatre Director
E. Frank Bluestein is the 1996-1997 Disney National Performing Arts Teacher of the Year and the 1994 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. USA Today named Bluestein as one of the top forty teachers in the United States in 1998. Up until his recent retirement, he served as chairman of the Germantown High School Fine Arts Department and as executive producer for the school’s three-million-dollar, Emmy Award winning television studio. Bluestein is a past winner of the American Theatre Association’s John C. Barner Award and has served as an arts advisory panelist for numerous organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission. He spent several years as director of shows at Opryland, USA, and most recently wrote and directed the national touring production of Beale Street Saturday Night starring blues legend Joyce Cobb. In 2013, Bluestein was inducted into the Educational Theatre Association’s Hall of Fame in Minneapolis.
Arts Leadership and Administration Director
Amanda Galbraith is a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. For eighteen years, she served as an art educator with Bartlett City Schools in Tennessee. Galbraith has served on the Tennessee Department of Education’s subject matter expert committee, two standards revision committees, a textbook and instructional materials advisory panel, and numerous curriculum development teams. She has received the Tennessee Art Education Association’s West Tennessee Art Educator of the Year award two times—in 2011 and 2013. In 2019, Galbraith was named the Tennessee Art Education Association’s Art Educator of the Year. She is a frequent presenter at local, state, and national conferences.
Visual Art Director
Libby Lynch is the upper school visual art instructor and art department chair at University School of Jackson in Jackson, Tennessee. She started her career in art education with the Shelby County School System after receiving degrees from Union University, the University of Memphis, and the Memphis College of Art. She became a member of the Tennessee Art Education Association in 1991 and has served in various leadership positions in the organization in an effort to ensure that as many children as possible have access to quality art instruction. In 2004, she was named Educator of the Year by the Tennessee Art Education Association and Sponsor of the Year by the National Art Honor Society. In addition to her educational and leadership roles, Lynch is also a jewelry designer who explores a variety of media and regularly exhibits her work in shows and competitions throughout the nation.
Connie Marley is retired after teaching twenty years at Freedom Middle School in Franklin, Tennessee. During her successful tenure at the school, her choirs consistently won superior ratings at local and state choral festivals. Each year, her students were well represented in honor choirs at the local, regional, and national levels as well. Prior to her time in Franklin, Marley held teaching positions in Georgia, Texas and the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Marley is also a past president of the Middle Tennessee Vocal Association and has served the organization in several other capacities. Currently, she is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association.
Before her retirement in May of 2008, Susan Ramsay was a music specialist at Franklin Elementary School in the Franklin Special Schools District and was named Teacher of the Year for that system. She has received National Board Certification in Music and holds degrees from Peabody College and Middle Tennessee State University. Ramsay is past president of the Middle Tennessee Orff-Schulwerk Association and the Middle Tennessee Elementary Music Educators Association and has served as regional representative on the National Board of Trustees for AOSA. She has presented at Orff and Kodaly national conferences and for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). She serves as an adjunct professor at several colleges and universities and maintains an active schedule of performances as a storyteller and as a musician.
TAA Professional Services Personnel
Belmont State Grant Administrator
Jeff Kirk is the associate director of performance studies of the School of Music at Belmont University, where he teaches courses in advance contemporary arranging and directs Jazz Band I, Belmont’s premier jazz ensemble. Kirk has degrees from the University of Memphis, Belmont University, and the University of Miami. He has extensive recording experience, including television jingles for Ford, Toyota, and several local and national retail stores. He has toured with Pure Prairie League and Maynard Ferguson and has been the headline act for Big Orange Jazz Festival, Fort Lauderdale Festival, Kool Jazz Festival, Atlanta Jazz Festival, Summer Lights Festival, and more. He has also opened for such acts as Bobby McFerrin, Stanley Turrentine, and Mark Murphy. For his album Clouds, Kirk was nominated in two Grammy categories—best jazz album and best jazz instrumental solo. His new album project for 88 Grand Productions, Come Thou Fount, is a collaborative effort with keyboardist Russell Davis.
TAA Foundation Grant Writer
Jesse Strauss is a grant writer and classical percussionist based in Nashville, TN. As a musician and lifetime music appreciator, he has enjoyed writing for a variety of arts and cultural organizations. Strauss has worked for the Nashville Symphony since 2018 and now serves as their Grants Manager. He is, however, equally experienced at fundraising for social and human services organizations. Strauss has procured federal, state, and private funding in service areas as diverse as mental health, childcare and early education, restorative justice, and healthcare. A sampling of other ongoing clients include Fannie Battle Day Home, Musical Mentors Collaborative, Centennial Park Conservancy, Raphah Institute, and Santa Monica Symphony. Last year, he helped raise over $1.5 million dollars for more than 15 nonprofits. Strauss cofounded Make Music Nashville, a free day of music that brings outdoor concerts and participatory musical activities to neighborhoods around the city each year on the summer solstice. He is also the Assistant Artistic Director for the contemporary classical ensemble chatterbird. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance from Belmont University, where he studied under Christopher Norton.
TAA Administrative Assistant
Savannah Aiello is a digital learning designer at Williamson County Schools. Prior to this position, she taught speech and theatre at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee. In addition to her work in the schools, Aiello has consistently performed and worked with local children's theatre groups in the area, including Bravo Creative Arts Center and Williamson County Star Bright Players. She also currently serves as technical director at Independence High School. Recently, she was elected to the board of directors of her local community theatre, Pull-Tight Players, where she frequently stage manages shows and serves as a social media and Instagram moderator. Aiello graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and lives in Franklin with her husband Sean, who is an attorney and a Williamson County Commissioner.
Founding TAA Music Director, Project Director & TAA Consultant
Madeline Bridges is professor of music in the School of Music at Belmont University, where she teaches music education. Her degrees include a B.M. in piano performance from Shorter College in Rome, Georgia; an M. Mus. Ed. from George Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University; and an Ed.D. in music education from the University of Alabama. Bridges has taught music and music education in classrooms from kindergarten through the graduate level and is past president of both the Tennessee Music Educators Association and the International Board of Directors of Choristers Guild. She is a member of the Tennessee Music Education Association Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tennessee Chapter of American Choral Directors Association. Bridges recently retired after having served for 29 years as Program Director of the Nashville Children’s Choir. For fifteen years, Bridges served as associate dean for academic studies of the Belmont School of Music.
TAA Founder & TAA Dean Emeritus
Joe Giles is founder of the Tennessee Arts Academy and former director of the Arts Education Program of the Tennessee Department of Education. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in music education from Austin Peay State University and has done additional study at Peabody College, Middle Tennessee State University, and Fisk University. Mr. Giles is past president of the Southern Division of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and of the National Council of State Supervisors of Music. He taught music in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools for twenty-two years, has taken choral groups on concert tours in Europe, and has received gold and silver medals in international music festivals.
Founding TAA Resource Center Director
Linda Singleton McAllister was a founding member of the Tennessee Arts Academy and organized its first Resource Center. She later served as Music Director when the program expanded to include secondary choral and instrumental tracks. McAllister served as music consultant for seven years with the Tennessee Department of Education and enjoyed working to improve arts education in the state, based on the vision of Joe Giles. She left Tennessee in 1993 and is now a retired music educator and choral director from The Academy for Academics and Arts, a K-8 magnet school in Huntsville, Alabama. Her choirs consistently received superior ratings at festivals. Several of her former students are now successful teachers and others have careers in the arts, including Michael Luwoye, who recently played Hamilton on Broadway. After returning to her hometown of Huntsville, McAllister received the prestigious Virginia Hammill Simms Award for contributions to the arts community. She served several times as president of the Huntsville City Choral Directors and after retirement was inducted into the Association’s Hall of Fame. McAllister also served on the national board of the Organization of American Kodaly Educators, was a founding member and president of the Huntsville Master Chorale, and served as vice president of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Melody Hart earned a bachelor of music degree in bassoon performance from Ball State University in Indiana. After graduation she moved to Nashville and worked for Badger-Bogle, Architects as executive assistant and bookkeeper from 1993 to 1998. She then began working with her husband, photographer Scott Schrecker, as office manager and bookkeeper. Hart also played bassoon for the Belmont University orchestra for several years and currently subs for them and other Nashville area orchestras on occasion. She plays bassoon with First Baptist Nashville’s sanctuary orchestra, teaches private bassoon lessons in her spare time, and enjoys performing duets with her daughter Sammy, who is a harpist. Hart also enjoys teaching the arts to her son Scotty.
TAA Support Specialist
Liz Friend has a fine arts degree with a concentration in ceramics from West Virginia University. She moved to Nashville six years ago to teach pottery and clay sculpture at Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Art Studios. For three years, she was the lead teacher for the kindergarten age group at Sarratt Youth Art Institute. As an artist, Friend draws inspiration from nature and spends much of her free time hiking and backpacking. She also loves helping people and has more than ten years of customer service and managerial experience.
TAA Year-Round Support Staff
Nathan Babian – Webmaster
Scott Schrecker - TAA Photographer
2022 TAA Summer Support Staff
Pollyanna Parker – Communications Coordinator, Theatre Assistant
Paula Medlin – Trio Track Coordinator
Vicki Donovan - Special Events Coordinator
Melissa Spaid - Visual Enhancement Coordinator
Charles Sanchez- Equipment Coordinator
Andrea Hittle - Transportation Coordinator
Jay McCulley - Van Driver
Bill Marley - VIP Coordinator
Evan Burton - VIP Driver
Will Berger - Academy Accompanist
Burkett Horrigan - Stage Manager
Anne Marie Walley - House Manager
Stephen Coleman - Awards Coordinator
Dianne Evans – Vendor Fair Coordinator
Jim Dodson – VARD Co-Coordinator
Patricia Hudson - VARD Co-Coordinator and Assistant Vendor Fair Coordinator
Grant Townsend Moore – Videographer
Lori Anne Parker-Danley – Copy Editor
Linda Norfleet – Proofreader
Lucia Battaglia - Social Media and Inventory Coordinator
Anne Short and Maya Wylie - TAA Summer Interns
Dianne Evans and Patricia Hudson – Office Volunteers and Ambassadors
Susan Hearn - TAA Office Receptionist and Silent Auction Coordinator
Sammy Schrecker - Special Events Assistant and Office Aide
Lexie Hearn, Scotty Schrecker - Office Aides
Special thanks to Katie Mitchell for her assistance in coordinating the TAA visual art exhibitions.
2022 TAA Facilitators
Arts Leadership and Administration
Tennessee Arts Academy • Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation
615-460-5451 • 1900 Belmont Blvd. • Nashville, TN 37212 • firstname.lastname@example.org